Monday 26 September 2016

Germany to pay €10 million to Soviet WW2 prisoners

Andreas Rinke

Published 20/05/2015 | 15:24

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watch honor guards pass by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow Credit: Maxim Shemetov
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watch honor guards pass by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow Credit: Maxim Shemetov

Germany has agreed to pay out almost €10 million in compensation to the 4,000 surviving World War Two Soviet prisoners who were held captive by Nazi Germany.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel is to set aside the sum in a supplementary budget next month, with the intent to give each survivor almost €2,500.

Europe marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war earlier this month, and the event threw a spotlight on some of the more rarely discussed aspects of the conflict, such as the fate of many millions of prisoners of war.

The suffering of the 5.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, who were held by German forces between 1941 and 1945, was extreme and more than half died.

Read More: Europe marks 70 years since Nazi defeat

Held in inhumane conditions, many were executed. Others starved or died of disease.

In a speech commemorating the end of the war in early May, German President Joachim Gauck emphasised the responsibility Germany bears for these deaths, and said the cruel fate of the Soviet prisoners had not been fully recognised in Germany.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry declined to confirm the plans as they were a matter for the Bundestag lower house but he said he believed they were correct.

"In the view of Foreign Minister (Frank-Walter) Steinmeier, it is a good initiative from the Bundestag which he welcomes and supports," said the spokesman.

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Ties between Berlin and Moscow have been under strain since 2013.

Western countries, including Germany, accuse Russia of direct involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, although Moscow denies this.

Nevertheless, Chancellor Merkel, a central figure in trying to get a ceasefire implemented in Ukraine, attended a May 10 end of war memorial in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It was unclear whether the compensation affected only survivors in Russia or in other former Soviet states.

The Bundestag must still approve the payment, but given support from both ruling parties and from the opposition Greens, its passage is likely to be smooth.

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Germany has paid more than €72 billion in damages for crimes committed by the Nazis, but it is difficult to put a figure on the amount paid to the Soviet Union which, as one of the four occupation powers, seized assets such as industrial plants as compensation.

Reuters

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